Dozens of winter sports enthusiasts pushed their way into a conference room at the Truckee Ranger District recently to make their opinions heard on changes where snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles can operate within the Tahoe National Forest.
The Forest Service released its draft environmental impact statement on the matter last month, comparing environmental effects of five alternative plans, which range from increasing the trails designated for over-snow vehicles by 0.5 percent to a 57 percent decrease from current management. There's also an alternative to keep current practices.
The Forest Service is reviewing the issue due to a lawsuit brought against the agency because current practices with over-snow vehicles had been established without going through a required planning process.
"Some years ago the federal government instituted travel management regulations for how the Forest Service should plan and manage for travel on the National Forest," said Forest Supervisor Eli Ilano.
"The national forests in California hadn't gone through that process and so some groups brought a suit against us … and so we settled that court case, and part of that settlement was we'd go through that planning process."
The alternatives proposed by the Forest Service range in number of acres designated for over-snow vehicle use, allowable snow depth for the vehicles to operate, the number of crossings of the Pacific Crest Trail, and other details.
During a Forest Service open house, several snowmobilers spoke out against closing certain trails and the limitations it places on reaching backcountry skiing and snowboarding locations.
Other groups concerned with environmental impacts voiced a desire to limit areas where over-snow use is designated.
For the Forest Service, the plan is to use the public comment period to find a balance between the opposing sides.
"We've heard from all manner of folks that like to recreate on the snow," Ilano said. "I think everyone who recreates in the winter is looking for areas where they can do their activity … so our job is to try and balance that and create opportunities for everybody."
Following the comment period will be and objection period, according to the Forest Service's website.
The Forest Service is taking public comment on the projects until May 29.
For more information visit fs.usda.gov/project/?project=45914.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Truckee Sun. Contact him at email@example.com.